Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Opposition Preview - Coventry City
Written by ad_wilkin on Friday, 1st Dec 2023 14:07

Following a play-off place finish and final defeat on penalties for Coventry last season, the disappointment has continued this season.

They lost main man Victor Gyokeres to Sporting Lisbon in the summer and found themselves languishing in 20th place with 16 points after 16 games.

They only picked up two points in their last six games before the international break and have become a draw specialist with their seven stalemates the highest in the league.

However, they have had a change in formation post-international break and won their last two games, beating Millwall 3-0 and securing a 1-0 win against Plymouth on Tuesday night, which has seen them rise up to 15th.

They’ll be hoping that this can be the catalyst to a sustained period of better for to continue to climb the table and they will no doubt be a more challenging prospect that they were a month or two ago.


Ben Wilson came into the season as the undisputed number one for Coventry and started the first 15 games of the season but with 22 goals conceded so far and a goals prevented rate of –2.75 the player who has been at Coventry since 2019 was dropped to the bench against Stoke.

That ended a run of 44 consecutive appearances which made up a large part of his 104 appearances for the club. It’s a serious dip in form for a keeper who kept 20 clean sheets last year and is symbolic of Coventry’s fall this season.

Replacing Wilson against Stoke was Bradley Collins. Collins was signed this summer from Barnsley. He played for the Tykes in the 2-2 draw at Portman Road but had been dropped to the bench by the second half of the season following the arrival of Harry Isted.

He does have previous Championship experience with Barnsley before they were relegated (82 appearances) and will be looking to prove his worth at a higher level once again. He performed well against Stoke with a goals prevented of 0.2 and a 67% pass accuracy rate.

Collins has now kept three clean sheets in a row and made team of the week for the last two matches with his goals prevented already up to 1.15. Town will certainly be facing a keeper in form.


As with most teams in the Championship these days versatility has become a key theme with players being used in multiple roles and formations switching depending on opposition.

Coventry are another one of these with variations of a back three and a back four. At the heart of both of those formations with 15 appearances so far is Kyle McFadzean. The only game he had missed was before the international break when he was on compassionate leave following the loss of his mother.

McFadzean is now 36 years of age but is still performing as strongly as ever using his experience and reading of the game to put himself at eighth place in the league for total interceptions by a defender.

He’s not started since missing that game with the two centre-backs who came into replace him Bobby Thomas and Liam Kitching performing well enough to keep their places.

The second-highest appearance-maker in defence for the Sky Blues this season is Bobby Thomas. The 22-year-old joined this summer from Burnley following a productive loan spell at Barnsley last season. Whilst Collins didn’t play, Thomas was one of those involved for Barnsley as Town won 3-0 at Oakwell to all but seal promotion.

This is his first season in the Championship but he provides the legs and fitness to cover for the elder statesman McFadzean and hasn’t looked out of place at this level.

Those two are out-and-out centre-halves but the next man Joel Latibeaudiere provides more flexibility to that formation. He has rotated between playing as the right-sided centre-back in a three, a right-back and a right wing-back. That versatility means he’s been involved in all 18 games so far starting 12 of them.

He joined this season on a free transfer having been released by Swansea where he racked up 79 appearances. At 26 years old he still has plenty of room to grow and develop and has also got plenty of game time for the Jamaica national team since making his debut in June.

He’s provided some defensive solidity but will be looking to improve his numbers going forward with the majority of Coventry’s threat coming from the left-hand side at the start of the season.

The other option Coventry have used at right wing-back is 23-year-old Dutchman Milan Van Ewijk. A signing from Heerenveen in the summer, the youngster has rotated with Latibeaudiere with 11 starts so far.

He provides more forward thrust than the Jamaican with more successful dribbles per game and a lot more entries into the final third and the opposition penalty area. His performances in the last couple of games against Millwall and Plymouth have been particularly impressive.

He made 112 appearances in the Eredivise and scored eight goals so he has plenty of experience but is still finding his feet in the English game.

Moving back across the backline to the left-hand side and Coventry possess two left-footed centre-backs that can also play left-back in Liam Kitching and Luis Binks.

Twenty-two-year-old Binks is back in English football having left Tottenham Hotspur's academy to join Montreal and then moved on to Bologna.

This is his second spell out on loan from the Italian side having spent time at Como in Serie B last year. He’s made seven starts so far this season on the left-hand side of a back three but has been on the bench for the last four games as Coventry have switched to more of a back four in recent games.

Kitching is yet another Barnsley link in this Coventry side and was another of the back three that started the 3-0 defeat to Town at Oakwell. He started the season captaining the Tykes in League One, playing four times before a late transfer to the CBS Arena. He’s had to bide his time since that move but has now started the last five games in a row with three of those resulting in clean sheets.

As mentioned previously, the majority of Coventry’s threat had come from the left-hand side and Jay Da Silva’s 34 key passes put him second in the league for defenders behind Leif Davis. Where he has been let down is the finishing ability of his teammates with only one assist compared to his xA of 3.01.

He can feel very unfortunate to have been the player to have been sacrificed as the Sky Blues have switched to a back four in the last few games. After five years at Bristol City he’ll be looking to break back into the team as soon as possible having joined on a free transfer this summer.

The player who has benefitted from the switch to a back four is Jake Bidwell as it’s seen him make his first three starts of the season. The 30-year-old has been playing in the Championship since 2014 in a career that has seen him appear 370 times across spells at Brentford, QPR, Swansea and Coventry.

This return to the team has coincided with three consecutive clean sheets which was an area that needed to improve having conceded seven goals in the three games previous to that. This form and solidity means the 4-3-3 formation is probably set to continue, and Bidwell could start getting some more game time.


There was another big gap left in the middle of the park when Gustavo Hamer left to join newly-promoted Sheffield United having been a key figure in last year's run to the play-offs.

It’s been left to the players that were left behind to step up and fill his space with Josh Eccles, Ben Sheaf and Jamie Allen operating in a midfield three in the most recent games.

Eccles played alongside Hamer last season but has really stepped up this season. His heatmap has grown dramatically showing coverage of both left and right sides of the pitch and also taking on corner deliveries.

He’s started 17 out of the 18 league games so far this season with the match against Millwall being a standout performance. He’s become the key passer in that midfield ranking 12th for total passes and fourth for key passes out of all midfielders in the league.

He’s also up there in the Sam Morsy and Massimo Luongo areas for tackles made, duels won and interceptions, ranking third for tackles, sixth for duels won and ninth for interceptions out of all midfielders in the league.

Alongside him Ben Sheaf is also hitting similar defensive numbers. He ranks fifth for tackles, 13th for interceptions and 18th for duels won and that’s having only started 11 games so far this season. His passing numbers are lower than Eccles but as a midfield partnership their numbers are as close to Morsy and Luongo’s as any other pairing in the league so this will be a fascinating battle.

The former Arsenal youngster has spent the last three seasons at Coventry, firstly on loan and then on a permanent transfer and has grown into that defensive role throughout his time there clocking up 119 appearances.

Playing either as a number ten or on the left side of a midfield three in recent games is Jamie Allen. Allen has been at Coventry since 2019 when he signed from Burton Albion. He’s a hard worker but has never hit prolific numbers for someone playing as the most advanced player, with 10 goals in 131 appearances for Coventry.

There’s not a lot of other competition in that area right now with Kasey Palmer just back on the grass following a hamstring injury, Calum O’Hare having been out at the start of the season with a cruciate ligament and 20-year-old Yasin Ayari not seen as experienced enough to start yet.

Ayari is on loan from Brighton and is a full Sweden international, making his debut in January of 2023. He made four appearances for the Seagulls, coming off the bench three times in the Premier League and once in the FA Cup and could be another in Brighton’s production line of young overseas talent. He’s started five games for Coventry with another six off the bench and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Huddersfield.

O’Hare has been out since December 2022 with his cruciate ligament injury and is understandably being slowly eased back into the team. He came off the bench for four matches in a row but was an unused sub in the 3-0 win against Millwall.

Prior to that injury O’Hare was a key figure in the number ten role for Coventry with 46 appearances in 20/21 and 45 in 21/22, a season where he also scored five goals and chipped in with eight assists. Cruciate injuries are notoriously hard to come back from, but he’ll be hoping to get more and more game time to build back his fitness and try and refind some of that form.

Palmer is a quality player when he is fit but in recent years that’s where the majority of his troubles have been. He played six of the first seven league games before suffering yet another injury having missed a large chunk of the second half of last season as well. On his day he can be unplayable but it’s unlikely he’ll see any action at Portman Road as he continues his recovery.

The other final depth option to look at in that central midfield area is Liam Kelly. The 33-year-old Scotsman is very much winding down his career and hasn’t been a regular since the League One season.

He has a run of starts at the beginning of the season alongside Eccles having captained the side at last year's play-off final but picked up a knock that kept him out for a few weeks. He was back on the bench against Stoke and Millwall but will likely struggle to displace the partnership of Sheaf and Eccles that has formed in his absence.


The forward area is the place that has undergone the biggest overhaul for Coventry this season with lots of the Gyokeres money reinvested.

One of those signings is Japan international Tatsuhiro Sakamoto. He’s struggled to find a consistent place in the team so far having played as the ten and as a right wing-back. Since the switch to 4-3-3 he started on the right of a front three against Millwall and put in his best performance of the season so far in what looks like his most natural position where he was able to cut inside onto his favoured left foot.

On the other side of that three against Millwall was another new signing in USA international Haji Wright. He signed in the summer from Turkish side Antalyaspor for £7.7 million, so comes with a hefty price tag on his shoulder.

He’s played football in Germany, Holland and Turkey but this is his first taste of English football. He has been prolific in those spells with his Antalyaspor record consisting of 31 goals in 64 matches.

He’s got five goals so far this season but has been the most wasteful of all of Coventry’s strikers, underscoring his xG by 3.74. The flipside of that is that he has the third highest xG in the league behind Sammie Szmodics and Adam Armstrong, so if he can start putting the chances away he should shoot up the scoring charts.

The Coventry striker who is putting his chances away is Matt Godden who has six from 17 appearances. His xG is fifth in the league which shows the amount of good chances Coventry are creating for their forwards. It also puts him alongside Nathan Broadhead and Conor Chaplin as joint seventh-top scorer in the league.

The 32-year-old spent the majority of his career in the lower leagues before making the move to Coventry in 2019. He’s been prolific at every level he’s played at with 30 in 81 in League Two, 28 in 73 in League One and now 32 in 99 in the Championship.

Those three are keeping fellow new signing Ellis Simms, who was a player that was rumoured to be linked to Town early in the transfer window before the Super Blues instead opted to bring back George Hirst. This is looking to be a shrewd move from Town with Simms struggling this season with only two goals, both scored in a win against QPR.

He scored seven goals in 17 appearances in his previous loan spell with Sunderland but has yet to hit those heights this season. He had a 22% goal conversion in that spell which has dropped to 6% this season but is getting far less touches in this Coventry side with only 14.9 per game compared to 24.5 per game at Sunderland showing that Coventry haven’t found the best way of getting him into games yet.

With the switch to a back four improving Coventry’s form he could struggle to push his way back into the team.

*All forward stats taken pre-midweek games

The Teams

Following the 3-1 victory over Millwall it will be hard to drop any of the Town players. The right-back slot could depend on Brandon Williams's fitness but Harry Clarke has been excellent in recent games so could keep his spot regardless.

Centre-back rotation could continue with Luke Woolfenden or even George Edmundson could coming back in but I'm going for a completely unchanged side for this one.

For Coventry, unless fitness issues hit it’s likely to be an unchanged team for the third game in a row. That means Collins in goal, a back four of Van Ewijk, Thomas, Kitching and Bidwell, a midfield of Eccles and Sheaf with Allen either making it a three on the left-hand side or playing further forward in the number ten role and a front three of Sakamoto, Wright and Godden.

Action Areas

Coventry rank mid-table for both tackles and passes so will present a challenge of a similar style to Town. They have also attempted the most crosses in the league and have the second most corners so defending set pieces and winning aerial battles will be crucial to keeping them out.

Like Town, they look to be progressive with their passes rather than passing to keep possession for the sake of it so it could be yet another end-to-end game at Portman Road.

The midfield battle will be the area to watch with four of the best all round midfielders in the league in there. Both Morsy and Luongo and Sheaf and Eccles have formed excellent partnerships and aren’t afraid to put their foot in, but can also be more creative and play plenty of crucial passes for their team.

The other area to watch is on the wings. With the more defensive Bidwell coming in on the left-hand side if Wes Burns can isolate him one-on-one Town can create a lot of chances in that area.

On the other side, Leif Davis will also be looking to push Van Ewijk back to stop him threating. The Coventry man utilised his pace on Tuesday night to get to the byline and deliver an excellent cross for Hadji Wright on Tuesday so if he gets one-on-one with Cameron Burgess, he could cause problems.

Overall, I think this will be a tougher task than against Millwall. Coventry have struggled, but seem to have settled on a formation that works better for them.

Their stats have them slightly higher in the table than they currently area but they’re still not at the same strength as their play-off side last year with wasteful finishing being their biggest problem. I’m going for 2-1 to Town.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

whymark4lazio0 added 08:20 - Dec 3
These opposition previews are excellent and your predictions re line-ups, how the game will be played and even scores are never far off the mark. For example, congrats on predicting we'd win this game 2-1.
You need to login in order to post your comments

Blogs 295 bloggers

About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© TWTD 1995-2024